Reopening plans pushed back in Illinois as COVID-19 infections rise and hospital beds fill
Reopening plans are being pushed back in Illinois as COVID-19 infections and hospitalizations rise yet again statewide, public health officials announced Tuesday.
With 70% of seniors vaccinated with at least one dose, the state had been on pace to see some business restrictions lifted this week under Gov. J.B. Pritzker’s “bridge phase” before a full reopening by May.
Not so anymore, as coronavirus cases mount and more people head to hospitals with the deadly respiratory disease. The governor’s intermediate reopening plan also required hospitalizations to “hold steady or decline over a 28-day monitoring period.”
That count has risen almost daily since hitting a one-year-low of 1,082 beds occupied by COVID-19 patients March 12. A total of 1,396 beds were taken up Monday night — the most since late February.
“As long as new hospital admissions continue to increase, the state will not advance to the Bridge Phase and on to Phase 5 of the Restore Illinois Plan,” officials from the Illinois Department of Public Health said in a statement. “The number of cases of COVID-19 has seen an increasing trend as well. Health officials continue to urge all residents to continue to mask up, socially distance, and avoid crowds to reduce transmission and bring the metrics back in line to transition to the Bridge Phase.”
1:16 p.m. New vaccination site will be dedicated to essential union workers
Mayor Lori Lightfoot on Monday announced a new vaccination site in partnership with the Chicago Federation of Labor that will help get doses of COVID-19 vaccine into the arms of essential union workers.
Lightfoot said the site will be able to handle about 1,200 vaccinations weekly at first and can grow to 6,000 weekly as vaccine supply increases.
The announcement comes as the city expands eligibility requirements to what’s called Phase 1C. That expansion includes residents ages 16 to 64 with underlying medical conditions, such as chronic kidney disease or cancer.
It also will allow vaccination for those working in construction, retail, restaurants and all other essential workers who had not previously been eligible.
“You all know this, but it bears repeating. Chicago is 100% a union town,” the mayor said in making the announcement at the vaccination site, the International Union of Operating Engineers Local 399, 2260 S. Grove St.
“It’s our union workers who make up the backbone of this city.”
Those wishing to be vaccinated at Local 399 must live or work in Chicago, hold a current union card or be a union retiree, and qualify under the city’s current eligibility criteria.
12:44 p.m. States struggle to get rent relief to tenants amid pandemic
Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced last July that New York would spend $100 million in federal coronavirus relief to help cash-strapped tenants pay months of back rent and avert evictions.
By the end of October, the state had doled out only about $40 million, reaching 15,000 of the nearly 100,000 people looking for help. More than 57,000 applicants were denied because of criteria set by lawmakers that many said was difficult to meet.
New York’s experience played out nationwide, with states failing to spend tens of millions of federal dollars aimed at helping renters avoid eviction. Burdensome requirements, poorly administered programs and landlords refusing to cooperate meant tens of thousands of tenants never got assistance. Some states also shifted funding away from rental relief, fearing they’d miss a year-end mandate to spend the money — a deadline that got extended.
The problem, housing advocates said, was that the federal government didn’t specifically earmark any of the coronavirus aid for rental relief, leaving states scrambling to set up programs with no guidance on how the money should be allocated. As much as $3.43 billion in federal aid was spent on rental assistance, according to National Low Income Housing Coalition. But advocates said more should have been done, given tenants faced as much as $34 billion in unpaid rent through January, according to a report released by the National Council of State Housing Agencies.
States’ rental relief programs “were a very mixed success. It was sort of a patchwork of programs,” Maryland Democratic Sen. Chris Van Hollen said in February. “There was a lot of experimentation — some successful, some not.”
9:32 a.m. Mayor’s plan for $1.8 billion in federal relief won’t go to City Council until May or June
Last month, a divided City Council authorized another round of federal coronavirus relief despite the political furor triggered by Mayor Lori Lightfoot’s decision to use $281.5 million from earlier funds to cover police payroll costs.
It looks like aldermen must wait a while for Round 2 of what is certain to be a battle royal over the $1.8 billion avalanche of federal money on its way to Chicago.
“I would expect that we probably won’t be taking a package to City Council [until] at the earliest, May, and it may not be ’til June,” the mayor said Monday.
Lightfoot’s timetable did not sit well with downtown Ald. Brian Hopkins (2nd).
“We need to have more involvement in the preparation of that package. Nobody wants a done deal dropped in our laps at the last minute and then say, ‘Take it or leave it. Vote it up or down,'” Hopkins said.
“All the aldermen I’ve talked to about this have expressed an interest in being involved in the prioritization of it. … There’s gonna be a healthy disagreement among the various caucuses within the City Council about what a top priority should be. But we should be a part of that debate.”
New Cases & Vaccination Numbers
- The Chicago Department of Public Health reported 438 new confirmed cases, 3 deaths and a test positivity rate of 4%.
- Another 110,211 shots went into arms on Saturday.
- Over 6.2 million vaccine doses have been sent to providers in Illinois and more than 2 million residents have now been fully vaccinated, officials said.